In Philadelphia, registration for the Staging event was to begin at 6 pm; so after checking in to our hotel at 11 am, we had a little extra time which allowed for a visit with our niece, Peyton, and her husband Adam, who lived in Philadelphia. We enjoyed the drive through their cute neighborhood and the tour of their very interesting 100+ year old house. We returned to the hotel around 6 pm and just off the lobby, saw that a room had been set up with a sign out front that said “Botswana Registration”.
In the registration room there was a table set up where two Peace Corps employees, Amy and Jolie, were seated. A stack of blank forms were on the table. A few people milled around with forms in their hands. I recognized some of the people from our Facebook group page (Bots 10), and a few recognized me. We turned in our forms with just a question or two. It went quickly. When I got to the table I met and handed forms to Amy and Jolie, and Amy gave me a great big smile, shook my hand and said, “Welcome to the Peace Corps”.
A large group of us went to dinner together that night at a nice Mexican restaurant and then it was back to the room to set the alarm to be ready for a visit to the clinic at 7:15.
In the morning, after breakfast with a few other volunteers, the first thing on the agenda was a four or five block walk to the federal building where we got our immunization forms and a Yellow Fever shot. Walking back from the clinic I realized that since the forms were apparently ok, the clinic visit over, nothing was going to get in the way, we were really going to be in the Peace Corps! Unless we were hit by a car crossing the street in Philadelphia, there was not much that could happen to prevent our getting to go. That was a very nice feeling.
The actual staging event began at 12:30. There were several items on the meeting agenda, among them:
- Learning more about the Peace Corps, though by this time everyone knew about all there was to know.
- Learning about the others in our group. This group would become our family for the next two years and we would depend on each other for support and advice as we learn to be productive Peace Corps volunteers.
- Learning about safety and security issues and some of the Peace Corps policies that we needed to abide by for our own good. For example, whenever we travel anywhere out of country; for any reason, even a vacation, we would need to tell our Peace Corps staff exactly where we will be going and staying. This is necessary in case something happens and we need to be reached. They are serious about this and have terminated volunteers who violated this rule.
- We revisited the Ten Core Expectations of Peace Corps Volunteers and the Three Stated Goals of the Peace Corps.
- We were asked to think and discuss what it meant to be a volunteer and re-think our commitment to serve for 27 months. We were told that we would have moments when we would be wondering why had done this, and those moments would really try us, so having a well thought-out reason for why we were ready for this commitment was needed. We even took a moment to write our thoughts down to review later.
- We discussed the following day’s travel plans.
The meeting was very inspiring and motivating. Amy and Jolie are both returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCV), and each shared great stories of their service to illustrate the lessons they were teaching us. They did a fantastic job of facilitating the meeting.
By now, I was allowing myself to fully embrace the idea that we actually were going to do this thing. Amazing. I almost had to pinch myself. Throughout this process we have felt Gods hand guiding us. So many little miracles and answers to prayer occurred helping us along the way, and we prayed for His peace during the months we had to be patient and wait. We feel like He wants us in Botswana. One big reason we want to help people via the Peace Corps is as an expression of our faith.
After dinner we went back to our room and did our final packing then set the alarm for 1:30 am and went to sleep. When the alarm went off, we dragged ourselves out of bed, bleary eyed, got ready and checked out of the hotel. We all piled on two large charter busses at about 3:15 am, headed for a three hour trip to JFK Airport. We were tired but there was excitement in the air. Everything went well checking in and passing through security. When it was time to board the plane at 11 am I noticed a whole lot of smiling faces. We were taking a one-way plane trip, courtesy of the Peace Corps (and the US taxpayers – thanks guys) to our new home for the next 27 months. We had only the vaguest idea what would be in store for us, but looked forward to the challenge.